Religion is the final Democratic frontier

New York sets an example that Minneapolis should follow. with regard to working with religion.

Camille Galles

Widely recognized to be a diverse and Democratic city, Minneapolis has the opportunity to set a precedent for a more inclusive liberal agenda. City officials and all Democrats can accomplish this by reaching out to an unlikely ally — religious groups.

Religion is often associated with the right side of the political spectrum, and many religious groups and leaders mobilize around hot-button conservative issues. For example, conservative religious groups were some of the largest supporters of Minnesota’s proposed same-sex marriage ban in 2012.

These facts make many Democrats recoil from religion in distaste. Many automatically associate religious values with conservative values. Even so-called open-minded liberals often shun the religious. This behavior affects people throughout the state.

Minnesota’s Somali Muslim population is frequently marginalized. Last week, Somali students protested outside of a St. Cloud high school regarding school administrators’ inadequate response to repeated harassment. Although this most recent incident happened outside of Minneapolis city limits, it’s emblematic of the struggles religious communities face in all parts of the state.

Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York City, was inaugurated in 2014, the same year as current Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges. A large difference between the two mayors is that, since his inauguration, de Blasio has begun to make a name for himself as a Democratic advocate for religious groups.

De Blasio has worked to include midday prayer breaks for observant students in public pre-kindergarten classrooms, close schools citywide for two Muslim holy days and relax health regulations regarding a circumcision procedure favored by ultra-Orthodox Jews.

The mayor describes religious outreach as instrumental to creating a more inclusive New York City.

Minneapolis differs from New York City in several ways, but its approach to religious tolerance and inclusion shouldn’t be one of them. If Democrats in Minneapolis begin to see the religious as allies instead of adversaries, imagine the compassion, mutual understanding and recognition people would feel throughout the city. Not only that, but the Democratic inclusion of religious groups could lessen the stagnation and animosity that currently surrounds the United States political process.

Political polarization holds Minneapolis, New York City and our entire nation back from progress. If members of both political parties don’t open their eyes to different perspectives, we’ll be fighting each other forever.

Democrats often point fingers at Republicans for being exclusive, and there’s definitely work to do within that party as well. But to be truly liberal and open-minded, Democrats should consider a religious viewpoint to be as valid as any other.